The Census and “Illegal Aliens”
The Los Angeles Times has published an op-ed that criticizes the inclusion of undocumented individuals in Census data and the subsequent usage of this data to allocate House seats. The authors, Richard Greener and George Kenney, contend that allocating House seats based on data that include nonvoting undocumented individuals unfairly privileges states with higher percentages of undocumented persons. Greener and Kenney liken this situation to the benefit Southern states gained in Congress from the counting of slaves and then freed blacks — despite their inability to vote. They argue that the allocation of House seats should rest only on numbers of “citizens,” rather than “illegal aliens.”
There are several problems with the authors’ reasoning. First, they seem to conflate that status of “noncitizen” with “illegal alien,” even though legal aliens are also noncitizens. It is unclear why they focused only on the supposed unfairness of counting illegal aliens when legal residents would present similar issues (e.g., they cannot vote).
Furthermore, as other commentators have argued, the Constitution seems to resolve this matter. The Fourteenth Amendment states that “Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed.” The Constitution requires an allocation based on “the whole number of persons,” not “citizens.”
Finally, other nonvoting groups impact the allocation of representatives, but the authors seem unconcerned with these populations. For example, in many states, felons are permanently disenfranchised. In addition, some states have relatively younger populations than others.